Book Two: The Lone and Level Land

Moradina Eoselunday

A Letter Home from Rin
(Translated from a combination Half Elven Patois and Hahn-gu)

Even as I put quill to scroll, I know not where to begin. And I am ashamed to say, Mother, it would not have occurred to me to write at all, had it not been for my companions who so diligently maintain journals of their exploits. Even so, I am uncomfortable in keeping a diary, and so I address this letter to you.

I know you will forgive me, as I’ve never been what you would call an attentive student of the written word. You know I blame old Cecil. Why not have me scribe from a rousing ballad or scroll of at least passing interest? Why all those dusty tomes of ancient land claims and patents of nobility? He truly has soured any further interest on the subject and in the medium. Though I suppose I am the better for it. After all, it’s not every gutter rat that knows his letters and can keep a line so neatly as myself.

Though, even as neat a script I keep, still my pen wanders. I will attempt to rein it in and speed to the matter at hand.

I trust by now Old Rin has informed you that I am no longer abroad in his employ. I have finished that service to him and have moved on to another. One that would take me from under his sheltering wing and reveal to me a world of excitement and adventure. Or, at least that’s what I naively thought. Much adventure and excitement I have known, but with it I have known much hardship and sorrow. I am sure you are unsurprised by this, given our shared history- and yours alone before mine. I doubt somewhat however that when you were set upon your adventure that you looked upon it with as much foolish enthusiasm as I looked upon mine. I can only hope that I grow in wisdom and knowledge as quickly as you did and prosper from it thusly.

I know I need not tell you this, Mother, but when you recount to Old Rin the tidings of this letter, give him my love, and spare him the details. You know he’ll only grow sick with worry.

I notice again I’ve written more than I’d intended, and more still considering I’d intended not to write at all. I suppose I avoid the body of this letter for its subject is a. . . . difficult one. Difficult to relate. Difficult to accept. Though, as dire as I make it out to seem, it’s not all glum tidings and ill bodings. Indeed, it begins with- as I transcribed earlier- much excitement and adventure.

I trust by now you’ve heard of the excitement that occurred in Riot’s Gate on the eve of the Eclipse? And I trust still you’ve heard something of the heroes of that day? Surely you have. Their praises are no doubt still being sung throughout the federation. Well, it is those very same heroes of whom I have already written at the onset of this letter! I travel with them! No, I travel as one of them. They are my companions.

But therein lie both the excitement and the sorrow. . . . No. Although when I began this letter, sorrow seemed a fitting word, now, for some odd reason that yet eludes me, it no longer seems so. . . . I will think upon this and then return. For now let me say, though I am treated as an equal I know I am not. And though it may seem so, I am not being overly harsh or petulant in this statement. I am merely being factual. When first I joined them, though I was eager and much filled with enthusiasm, I lacked the experience and skills they’d all of them already come to learn.

But I’ve jumped ahead of the tale and related not how it was exactly that I’d come to join them. Or even what it was they sought to do.

As long as that old priest did keep his word and informed Old Rin of my new employ then I’ve no doubt he in turn has informed you. Imagine my merriment at discovering I was to be made a gift to one of the heroes of Riot’s Gate! I’ve no doubt the humour is not lost on you. After all, it was the single most important lesson you did impart upon me- ‘Never let another take away your freedom, Rin. Even in the darkest cell, with chains around your feet, it cannot be taken from you. It can only ever be given. Never give it up.’ And, having raised me yourself, you know I am a willful boy not prone to taking orders or bending to a whip. (And although I know you’ve already forgiven me and forgotten, I must again apologize for the many headaches I no doubt unduly caused you in my youth, Mother). And thus, because it did suit me so, and because of the opportunity it did provide, I did agree and thus became the shield arm of the hero, Nimbus.

Though I would later discover to my discomfiture that there was not a person alive who needed a shield less than he.

Or so at first I thought. . . . It would seem that old priest has a knack for portents.

But I am ahead of myself. The point is that these were seasoned adventurers and I- I can’t help to mention at this juncture, with no thanks to Old Rin and his coddling embrace; the gods love him- was still a greenhorn, barely wet behind the ears.

They shielded me more than I shielded any of them.

I had a new sword of great magickal property though, and thus was I still excited.

I can’t believe I’ve not yet told you! I saw a dragon! A wicked black thing residing in a lair deep within a maze of coral, floating in an otherworldly plane of water no less. Well, truth be told, I did see it only briefly before I was overcome by fear and did lose my wits and then my bearing in that verysame maze. Luckily for me, Nimbus was there and after he and the rest of the companions did dispatch the wyrm, he did save me. I suppose he did not wish to lose his shield, lest he find himself in peril.

A jest at my expense. Even as I write it though, I wonder at my ability at levity. Something indeed is different and I feel not as I did at the onset of this letter. I will reflect more upon this as I write.

I’ve not yet told you of the companions! The heroes of Riot’s Gate are a truly marvelous bunch. I much enjoy traveling with them, gleaning from them whatever I can and whatever they are willing to impart, much as I did in my youth upon the docks.

Nimbus, as you may have already gathered, is a warrior without equal. And yet he fights without weapon or armour. And even more remarkably, he does so having taken vows of poverty and to do no violence. A truly remarkable feat considering the events that are a regular occurrence on the road we travel. He bears many scars and tattoos, most of which I am told are from his days as a slave. It would seem his life and yours are not much different. That is not all I have to say of him but will move on to the others for now.

A young gnomish tinker of that University in Selunaport travels with us. Indeed, despite her apparent misgivings about the adventuring life, Frankie seems to be the one the rest all rely on to contrive a way past any obstacle. She is also deadly accurate with a crossbow- perhaps another reason the rest all head her council. (Frankie is not her given name of course, but it is what everyone calls her. Unfortunately, her true name tends to tangle my tongue, and I would not hazard an attempt to spell it).

A powerful wizard also numbers among the companions. Though he is a rather cantankerous human, Thalazzar can be relied upon- more often than not- to call down great magicks in the heat of battle, summoning forth demonic minions to fight at our side. Many’s the time the day was won because of his magicking. Although he would not be the first person in whom I put my trust, the companions seem to do so, and thus far- admittedly- he has not let us down.

We also travel with a bard and a cleric of Moradin. Although Tiberio, the bard, seems a bit of a hedonist, he is also a staunch companion and swordsman. The dwarven cleric, Arek, is equally dependable in a fight, though he does with hammer and prayer what Tiberio does with blade and song.

It is both a terrible and awesome sight to see a cleric wade into a room filled with the undead. A sight I hope you never see. I will move on.

Two others number themselves among the companions, though like myself, were not with them at Riot’s Gate. Both of whom are curious fellows to say the least.

The one is a clockwork, but unlike any clockwork I’ve e’er seen. His body is covered in strange bronze ruins, and he is capable of many magickal feats- though he assures me they are not magickal in nature. Or perhaps I’ve got that wrong. You know how I am when it comes to such things. And- you’ll appreciate this- his name is Ts’Elf! A curios name for a clockwork, you’ll agree. I will have to remember to ask him about it, though he does seem a bit uncertain when it comes to details about his past.

The other is a curious fellow by the name of Janarl. He seems a noble hunter of a race I’ve ne’er heard of, the T’kel. A race of lizard, or serpent men. He only just recently joined us, though he has traveled with the rest before. He is most mysterious (the fact he wears a mask he never removes only serves to increase the mystery about him).

Well, those are the companions in brief. Another did travel with them from Riot’s Gate, by the name of Domaldi, but I know not much of him. He did fall in battle and the others seem reluctant to speak of it, and I do not wish to push them on the matter. One’s mortality when adventuring is already only too apparent without speaking of fallen companions.

Now, where was I. . . . Oh yes! The quest. The other reason I did agree to join the companions (and in fact was honoured to do so) was to aid them in their quest. It is straight from a ballad this! The great heroes of Riot’s Gate seek to rescue a princess from the evil clutches of the Monotheocratic order, beyond the forbidding Wall of the Righteous!

If only the actual deed of doing so was as simple as a bard’s song, I would even now be back in Selunaport singing to you of our triumphs. But, as is the case, some ballads do not flow as smoothly as others.
Nimbus is dead.

This is what has been troubling me throughout this letter. Not the fact of his death, but at my feelings about it. When I began to write you, I knew I had failed in my mission to protect him, but now I am not so certain. . . .

As I’ve already told you, Nimbus needed not the likes of me or anyone else to protect him from harm in battle. And I know now that this is not what the priest, Wulfgar, meant when he assigned me the task. I was not to protect Nimbus from others, but from himself.

Did I tell you Nimbus glowed? He did. He truly seemed a divine warrior. It was only when his light that seemed to emanate from within him began to fade- too late- did I realize my mistake. I was too self-absorbed. I was too out-of-sorts and focused on the fact that there was little I could do in battle to assist him (and all the others, in fact) to see that it mattered not. My eyes were closed and only when the light was gone did I see.

When I began this letter and until only a few moments ago I did think this was my failure and that all was lost. However, new memories do pervade my mind, and they are most befuddling to say the least!

I died. Not once but twice. And in death all was made right.

The very same necromancer who did slay Nimbus was both his father and his savior. In fact he saved us all.

Forgive me. I’ve lost the rhythm of my letter but I must write this down as it comes to me.

We met on the River Styx, Nimbus and I, and were joined by the mysterious hunter, Janarl. He was not dead though. Neither was the necromancer, Mastof Golgadin. Neither was I, nor Nimbus I suppose. . . .

We traveled to the necromancer’s past to right some wrong these In-Between Men made, and in doing so, saved ourselves. And perhaps the soul of Nimbus’ misguided father. . . .

Forgive me, this must all sound very alarming and mysterious, but I know not how else to put it to word.

I still see Nimbus falling to his death, but this time, his glow has returned. He has been saved. His father, the necromancer still slew him, but I no longer begrudge him that. He also saved him. And me. I shall have to think on this some more. . . .

It was not I who saved Nimbus in the end, but it does not matter. It matters only that he was saved. I know that now. We are a group of companions for that very reason. Where one is not strong enough to stand alone, he has only to turn his head to either side and see a stalwart companion standing there. That is where we draw our strength, and must continue to do so.

I look upon our quest with renewed hope.

I will end the letter here for now, Mother, for soon it will be my watch and I must get some rest. The land beyond the Wall is a dangerous place. Though fear you not, I travel not alone.

Give my love to Old Rin.

Your dutiful and dashing son,

BOOK THREE: Slouching Towards Eudaemonia

Chapter One: Southwards

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